Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, based on the character by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby and a story by Ed Brubaker
Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo
Welcome to the 21st century, Cap.
Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to hit the ground running, much like (excuse the segue) Captain Steve Rogers does in The Winter Soldier. While the action scenes are much more influenced by Parkour as well as harder than they were before, the events here put the psyche of Captain America to an even harder test: How much can he take? And whom can he trust?
When the story shifts into second gear, the hybrid the nature of the Marvel movies becomes obvious: Kevin Feige and company have stated more than once that they don't regard their movies as Comic Book Movies but as movies of their own genre set within a comic universe--and rightfully so. The Winter Soldier fulfills all the conspiracy needs of a fan of spy thrillers without the plot feeling in the wrong place. If you have Nick Fury--THE spy according to some guy named Tony Stark--as well as Black Widow in the front and center of your story, then a conspiracy, mistrust and espionage are a natural next step.
The titular character and his "return" to the franchise will not be any surprise even to the average geek but is done effortlessly and with impressive action scenes. For the average moviegoer, this subplot is the icing on the cake--I imagine. One might actually envy everyone who goes into this not knowing who The Winter Soldier is. (Though they haven't exactly been going out of their way to keep the secret in interviews and whatnot.)
At times, the glee and joy we all feel when we watch The Avengers shines through the dark and serious events in the movie, but never without a bitter aftertaste: in this movie, Cap graduates from the seemingly clear cut, black and white world of World War II or an Alien Invasion...to the complicated, grey world of the 21st century. This is the movie version of an event comic and an event comic done correctly. The ending leaves open a ton of questions for the MCU while finishing its own story nice and tight. It will be thrilling to see what this means for Agents of SHIELD and its remaining episodes.
Without spoiling too much I can say: the events of The Winter Soldier debunk Widge's theory of Robert Redford playing The Sundance Kid in this movie (I threw in Martin Bishop--who would have faced another version of the Mandarin in Sneakers during the 90s) but it does open the possibility for Samuel L. Jackson playing Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, who decided to walk the earth for a while...before joining the government.
Butâ€¦ did I like the movie? Let me say this: if you don't like the character Captain America, this movie will most likely change your mind. If you like spy movies or action movies or have ever enjoyed any comic book movie, you will love it. The only people I could see not liking The Winter Soldier are those who do not agree with the course the Marvel Cinematic Universe's story is taking. To you types, I say: sorry, Captain's orders.